Quiet Place, A: Day One (United States, 2024)

June 28, 2024
A movie review by James Berardinelli
Quiet Place, A: Day One Poster

The prequel to John Krasinski’s horror/science fiction duo, A Quiet Place and A Quiet Place Part II, Day One offers a self-contained story that is different than the earlier films both in tone and intent. This is a moodier, more existential look at an apocalypse – a variation on a road trip movie where the journey is geographically limited and the destination is nebulous. Rather than simply re-hashing monster moments and jump scares from Krasinski’s movies, writer/director Michael Sarnoski (Krasinski’s hand-picked choice) has opted for something a little different. Although some scenes are suffused with suffocating tension and there are plenty of flashy special effects sequences (Michael Bay is one of the producers, after all), Day One at times feels more like an art house movie than something made for mainstream audiences.

I’m not sure how this is going to be received by multiplex-goers because it’s not what most people will be expecting based on Paramount’s marketing campaign. Pretty much every spectacle moment shows up in the trailer and the action-oriented aspects fade into the background in the actual production. Day One is strongly character based, focusing on the struggles of one individual (and her intrepid cat) to move forward. And, because she has been given a death sentence (that isn’t a spoiler – it’s revealed at the very beginning), this isn’t so much about long-term survival as it is about living in the moment, even though the moment is less-than-ideal.

Day One features only one returning character from either of the earlier A Quiet Places: Djimon Hounsou’s Henri, who made a brief appearance in Part II. Everyone else, including the lead, Samira (Lupita Nyong’o), is a newcomer. The movie begins before the alien invasion occurs, introducing us to Samira and Frodo the cat, as she boards a bus for a day trip to New York City. She’s dying of cancer and resides in a hospice residence, but she agrees to the outing on the condition that the group stops for pizza. The facilitator, a nurse named Reuben (Alex Wolff), readily agrees. When all hell breaks loose, Samira finds herself alone in the middle of what appears to be a war zone. She is eventually joined by another survivor, Eric (Joseph Quinn), a law student who appears unable to process what’s happening. But escape from Manhattan (all the bridges have been blown up because water is toxic to the aliens) isn’t her goal. Instead, she doggedly makes her way to Harlem in search of the best slice of pizza in the city.

Day One shows the invasion through Samira’s eyes. Although there are a few brief shots that provide an indication of the scope of the situation, the focus is on the maelstrom of chaos that surrounds Samira and the various characters she encounters. She travels through a crumbling New York (there’s a strong 9/11 vibe) where the population of monsters seemingly exceeds that of human beings. As was the case with the other Quiet Place films, dialogue is minimal with words spoken only in circumstances where they can be drowned out by other ambient noise. We get to know the characters through their actions and interactions.

Samira’s terminal condition creates an interesting dynamic by changing the movie’s stakes. Day One isn’t about her long-term prospects, because she doesn’t have any. Instead, it’s about rediscovering living in the shadow of death. The movie also isn’t about her fighting back. That’s not to say there are no alien fatalities in the movie, but most of those deaths are incidental. There are far too many of the adversaries to vanquish and Samira lacks the stamina and strength to do more than run and hide.

Day One belongs to Lupita Nyong’o, who is at the center of the story except for a brief sequence when the narrative follows Eric on a side-quest. It’s a difficult role – Samira’s condition has made her bitter and intractable, but impulses of humanity remain. It’s a physical part that requires Nyong’o to reveal aspects of Samira without the benefit of dialogue. Aside from Joseph Quinn, whose Eric becomes a sidekick, none of the other actors has more than a supporting role.

A word about the cat… I’m not sure if the feline’s persistent survival is intended to be humorous but there comes a point when it’s more of a distraction than a benefit. The cat serves a purpose at the beginning (and, I suppose, at the end) but the contortions necessary to keep it at Samira’s side through the entirety of the movie creates an unnecessary barrier to immersion. I’m reasonably certain the filmmakers are having fun with the animal burning through its nine lives but the comedic aspect, if that’s what it’s supposed to be, doesn’t work in this context.

Fans of the first two films hoping to gain additional insight into the monsters, their culture, their technology, or anything else will be disappointed. They are presented as forces of nature and Day One does nothing to expand the overall mythology. Despite transpiring in a big city, it works on a smaller, intimate scale: a fraught journey through a nightmarish landscape in which death lurks around every corner. The unique aspect of A Quiet Place – that the aliens hunt by sound not by sight – has become baked-into the DNA but it still allows the sound designers to have some fun and results in a few memorably tense interludes. This works effectively as a stand-alone film and part of a larger story, and finds a way to extend the Quiet Place concept without feeling redundant.

Quiet Place, A: Day One (United States, 2024)

Run Time: 1:40
U.S. Release Date: 2024-06-28
MPAA Rating: "PG-13" (Violence, Disturbing Images)
Genre: Science Fiction/Horror
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1